Children of anonymous sperm donations

Men donate sperm for one of any number of reasons, and likely the top reason is simply money since sperm banks tend to pay their donors. A lot of the samples are likely to be discarded: they were either not viable to begin with, or they aren’t used within their viability period.

But for the comparatively few samples that are used and that do also actually result in a pregnancy that is carried to term, what of the children?

Most sperm donations are made anonymously. If the donation results in a child, the donor doesn’t want to know, nor does he wish to meet the child. There are also legal barriers in place protecting him from claims for child support, also courtesy of the wall of anonymity. The women who go into a sperm bank also go into it realizing that they may never know the identify on the other side of the semen sample, and I believe most are content never knowing.

But let’s fast-forward twenty years down the road.

Certainly all men who donate sperm know there is the possibility their donation could result in a baby. This is something to be kept in mind as part of the "donor decision", because once you hand the cup of sperm over to the attendant and accept the check for the donation, there is no going back. It’s certainly a mental anguish I could not see myself going through.

But then there’s the child.

In virtually every sperm donation situation, the child will not have any right to seek the identity of their donor fathers until they are 18, the age of majority in the United States. Seeking out the donor father is needed if there are any special medical concerns, so obtaining the medical history of the donor is definitely warranted, something clinics twenty and thirty years ago may not have always obtained in advance of the donation.

But what if you just want to know who the donor father is?

According to a recent article published by the Associated Press, there is a push by sperm donor children to end the practice of anonymous sperm donation by outright banning it, thus bringing back into the forefront that if there is a practice occurring that you don’t like, push for legislation. Talk about another one-sided argument.

Okay let’s look at this from all angles.

There are actually four sides to all sperm donor stories: the sperm bank, the donor, the recipient or surrogate, and the child. Of this equation with four variables, only one is pushing for the end to the practice of anonymous sperm donation so they can learn the identities of their donor fathers.

I can certainly understand their concern. Many children, not just "cryokids", as some have called themselves, grow up not knowing their father, or possibly their mother or both parents, something that can occur for one of several reasons — the parent may have died, simply just walked out, or anything else.

But let’s look at the other three variables of this equation, and it’s really quite simple. Anonymous, paid sperm donation is what keeps the sperm banks in business. However every market has both a supply and demand: the paid donors are the supply, and single mothers and lesbian couples are much of the demand. End the practice of anonymous sperm donation and you’ll likely see that market dry up.

Plus there is the matter of respecting the privacy of the donor. Yes, every sperm donor knows there is the possibility their sperm will result in a baby. However in signing the paperwork handing over their sperm in exchange for the cash, they have opted to remain entirely anonymous, and the sperm bank has an obligation to protect that privacy. But as I said, the women go into it as well knowing the donation is anonymous.

In the AP article, a question was posed by Wendy Kramer, who runs the web-based Donor Sibling Registry:

It’s always the rights of the parents, the donor, the clinic. Why is it that the rights of donor-conceived people aren’t even considered in the equation?

This is certainly a reasonable question to ask, but it takes the definition of a right to a whole other level. Do the children of sperm donors have the right to learn the identify of their fathers? At the same time, do men have the right to donate sperm anonymously?

The answer is No on both counts.

Sperm donor children have no more of a right to learn the identity of their fathers than does a child who was conceived during a one-night stand where the woman cannot remember with whom she had sex. If both have equal right to learn the identity of their fathers, then the former can compel the sperm banks to hand over identifying information against the wishes of the donor, presuming their records are still accurate, and the latter can compel a court to DNA test an entire city.

Do children have any right to know the identities of their biological parents? No. The fact that most children do know this information does not equate it to being a right. The fact that some children go their entire lives not knowing this information shows it is not.

While it is unfortunate that most children of sperm donors may never know the identities of their biological fathers, they need to realize that if the donors wish to be discovered, they would make themselves available to be discovered. As such they also need to respect the desires of the sperm donors to remain anonymous.

Even if they are fortunate enough to learn the identity of their biological father, if that donor does not wish to know or become involved in the life of their donor child, that should also be respected. Again most children grow up not knowing the identity of one or both parents, which means that children of sperm donors are no more special and have no more or any special rights over any other child, something that also needs to be realized.

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Article: "Sperm-donors’ kids seek more rights and respect", Associated Press

Movie: Made in America (1993), starring Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson